The unforgivable metal birdie

bird statue in Addu

the unwanted birdie ..

the statues of birds and beasts which has been erected in Addu for the SAARC summit are a first for the country and are already causing much controversy. Prior to this, Maldives has been free of statues like this in accordance with the conservative religious norms of the country.

It maybe a creative idea gone wrong on the part of SAARC organizers to come up with the idea of statues which is scorned by everyone across the board. But like everything else it has a money trail in the millions which probably is the reason why they are hastily fixed there without any public consultation or regard to peoples sensibilities . Street news have it that the bird statue in Feydhoo alone cost more than a million ruffiyaas to create it although news sources set the figure at 600000 rufiyaas. Whatever the amount is, the cost of producing the scorned objects in the first place, maintaining 24 hour military security around the statues is clearly ludicrous as our country is still barely making ends meet and there are recommendations, advice and even threats by leading world bodies like IMF and worldbank to trim the already wasteful state expenditure or else!

The statues are even politically not tenable because it has infuriated a sizable percentage population which surely will cost the ruling MDP much votes and possibly the executive office if a strong contender emerges for the president.

Statues, fine arts, exotic drinks are fine for developed countries which has money to spare after doing everything they can think of doing but here in Maldives where we are on par with Ethiopia in corruption scale and where we fare even less than sub saharan african countries in terms of higher education enrollment, this is an unforgivable mistake.

Our 9/11 tragedy unfolds… in Maldives

Although we do not have tall sky scrappers like the US, today 9th September 2011 is one of the saddest days in our nations history.  Just like as the USA lost 3000 souls in their 9/11 tragedy, today we lost 5 people which is exactly the same percentage when US and our country’s population are compared. However our tragedy is not related to any war or global conflicts.

On behalf of all fellow resort workers we send our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and we wish them courage in this hard time. May Allah bless them and their loved ones, and make them rest in peace.

The specifics:

 

the spot where the tragedy happened
It happened in a most happy carefree setting which is repeated numerous times throughout the year in various parts of the country. Two Classes of Hiriya School (2nd girl’s school in Male’) went on a Fisheries science project to the island of BoduHuraa (near Four Seasons Kuda Hura) with some of their teachers and their late principal Mr. Ali Nazim. He is a strong swimmer and a swimming instructor as well. Over the course of the project, a group of about 8 girls somehow went in to a deeper part of the lagoon (8 feet depth) and shouted seeking help. Nazim managed to free some of the drowning girls and it appears that the remaining panic stricken teens somehow overpowered him reflexively and that appears to have been how the tragedy happend. The total body count of the tragedy is five including Nazim.

people throng the gates of IGMH to pay condolences of the Hiriy school victims

The tragedy has taken the whole country by surprise and the whole country is in mourning. Three official days of national mourning has been announced by the president and Health and Education ministry are conducting reviews of the whole situation to prevent repeats in the future.

the children in happier times

the children in happier times

Lets meet the people’s representatives

people's majlis
Apparently there is an issue about our parliament members requesting privacy of their phone numbers, which is despite the fact that most members pledged to be in contact and forever approachable by the people in their election campaigning. Most parliament members promptly went back on their pledge the moment their election victory was announced. However an effort led by a facebook group Majliswatch calling for reform of majlis member’s pay structure have put up a posters in Male’ with our majlis members photos and their contact details asking the people to send views direct to the members on this and other similar reform issues.


We believe this is a very good initiative and everyone shall engage in calling for reform of relevant issues through majlis. Majlis members as they are people’s representatives shall respect the peoples right to be heard and shall maintain open lines of communications with the people. As long as they are in the service of the people, the people will have every right to demand and to know how much their representatives are being paid, offered, by whom and what-for etc.. This is basically accountability to the people.

Listed below here are some details of our parliamentarians and their contact numbers. We urge all fellow resort workers to respect their position and address issues in respectable terms when texting your views.

salaams

moosa manik 7771907 mdp hulhu henveiru dhaaira
eva abdulla 7782847 mdp galolhu uthuru dhaaira
muhammadh rasheed 7764243 mdp machangolhi dhekunu dhaaira
ibrahim rasheed 7785618 mdp maafannu dhekunu dhaaira
muhammad shifaaz 9699626 mdp baarashu dhaaira
ahmed sameer 7772046 mdp dhidhoo dhaaira
ali arif 7917489 drp vaikaradhoo dhaaira
ali riza 7783081 7781429 mdp milandhoo dhaaira
ali saleem 9911132 drp funadhoo dhaaira
muhammadhu thaariq 7788510 mdp manadhoo dhaaira
dr. afraasheem ali 7775327 drp ungoofaaru dhaaira
ali azim 7771918 drp mehu henveiru dhaaira
ahmed mahloof 7774567 drp galolhu dhekunu dhaaira
imthiyaz fahmee 7777852 mdp maafannu uthuru dhaaira
ahmed nihaan hussein manik 7774330 drp vilimaafannu dhaaira
Dr. abdulla mausoom 7791001 drp vilimaafannu dhaaira
muhammadhu mujuthaz 7777948 drp hanimaadhoo dhaaira
muhummad nasheed 7902266 kulhudhuffushi dhaaira
hussein waheed 7771166 mdp komandoo dhaaira
ali muhammad 7772076 drp velidhoo dhaaira
muhammad naashiz 7772370 drp alifushi dhaaira
visaama ali 7774256 drp maduvvari dhaaira
haamidh abdul ghafoor 7778245 mdp henveiru dhekunu
mariyaa didi 7771769 mdp machangolhi uthuru dhaaira
abdulla abdul raheem 7993113 mdp maafannu hulhangu
ahmed rasheed 7774650 mdp hoarafushi dhaaira
ahmed abdulla 7775645 mdp ihavandhoo dhaaira
muhammad nasheed 9992013 mdp nolhivaram dhaaira
abdul ghafoor moosa 7772656 mdp kulhudhuffushi uthuru dhaaira
muhammad hussein 7775555 drp kanditheem dhaaira
ahmed easa 7773764 mdp kendhikulhudhoo dhaaira
hamdhoon abdulla hameed 7772333 drp inguraidhoo dhaaira
muhammad zubair 7900166 duvaafaru dhaaira
thasmeen ali 7772547 drp kendhoo dhaaira
ahmed moosa 7772339 kurendhoo dhaaira
ismail abdul hameed 7777137 kaashidhoo dhaaira
hussein muhammad 7784383 drp mathiveri dhaaira
gasim ibrahim 7771111 jp maamigili dhaaira
ahmed nazim 7786789 pa dhiggaru dhaaira
ahmed aamir 7782131 kudahuvadhoo dhaaira
riyaz rasheed 7771331 (GP) vilufushi dhaaira
abdul aziz jamal abubakr 7785619 pa maavashu dhaaira
muhummad ramiz 7771724 drp vilingili dhaaira
muhummad nazim 7774548 mdp madaveli dhaaira
zahir adam 7783433 mdp gadhoo dhaaira
abdulla maseeh muhammad 7772233 drp foamulaku dhekunu dhaaira
hassan latheef 7902231 drp hithadhoo dhekunu dhaaira
alhaan fahmee 7900324 mdp feydhoo dhaaira
ahmed saleem 7773508 lp aedhafushi dhaaira
ahmed muhammad 7774618 drp naifaru dhaaira
rozaina adam 7778061 drp thulusdhoo dhaaira
ali waheed 7925554 mdp thoddoo dhaaira
yusuf naeem 7772506 drp felidhoo dhaaira
abdul muhsin hameed 7775763 drp nilandhoo dhaaira
ahmed siyam muhammad 7771020 meedhu dhaaira
muhammad musthafa 7778844 mdp thimarafushi dhaaira
abdul raheem abdulla 7795834 pa fonadhoo dhaaira
muhammad riyaz 9991298 mdp dhaandhoo dhaaira
ibrahim muthalib 7775087 jp fares maathodaa
muhammad rafeeg hassan 7778455 drp foamulaku uthuru dhaaira
muhammad aslam 7772966 mdp hithadhoo uthuru dhaaira
ilyas labeeb 7774670 mdp hulhumeedhoo dhaaira
nazim rashaad 7781182 mdp thulhaadhoo dhaaira
ibrahim muhammad solih 9998171 mdp hinnavaru dhaaira
ibrahim riza 7772823 guraidhoo dhaaira
rugiyya muhummad 7907984 mdp mahibadhoo dhaaira
abdulla yameen abdul gayoom 7785665 pa mulaku dhaaira
ahmed hamza 7771328 mdp bileydhoo dhaaira
moosa zameer 7771727 pa kinbidhoo dhaaira
ahmed rasheed ibrahim 7874050 9996027 pa isdhoo dhaaira
yusuf abdul ghafoor 7786517 7936517 pa gamu dhaaira
ilham ahmed 7777197 drp gemanafushi dhaaira
muhammad gasam 7777322 mdp thinadhoo dhaaira
shifaq mufeed 7772271 mdp foamulaku medhu dhaaira
muhammad rasheed 7781360 mdp hithadhoo medhu dhaaira
hassan aadil 7785050 mdp maradhoo dhaaira

Absurd descisions..

the island of Foamulah

Officially this is Not one, but three islands!


Geographically Maldives consists only of atolls and islands. While the majority of the islands fit in the coral reef ring that makes the atoll, some islands stand by themselves in the Indian ocean. Foa Mulah, Kaashidhoo, Thoddoo, Alifushi are lone islands like this. On the other hand we have perfect geographical atolls like the normally acknowledged atolls and Rasdhoo, Makunudhoo, Gaafaru, Fulhadhoo and Goidhoo.

However for administrative reasons successive governments have named, renamed and titled islands and atolls at will for quite some time. These naming and renaming does not follow geography and only follows what is practicable and sometimes what is convenient in politics. For example the big atoll Huvadhoo was made two atolls for administrative purposes back in the 80s because the communication equipment at the time did not have full coverage of the atoll from end to end. Ari atoll was cut in half in the 90s for purely political reasons. Similarly absurd titles were given after 2000 to Male atoll Villingili and the newly developed island at Hulhule as wards of Male’ despite the islands being separated by sea from Male’. However these naming and renaming serve the political purpose as no strong objections has been raised against such measures.

The latest absurd naming of the island happened quite recently at FoaMulah which is now officially 3 islands two of which are supposed to be uninhibited although in reality the island is still one indivisible island which couldn’t even add more territory to it by dredging because the island lacks the protective lagoons and beaches most islands have. FoaMulah has been an island by itself for centuries despite being quite close to Addu atoll. Although there were attempts to associate FoaMulah as an island belonging to Addu, it does not appear to have found any wider acceptance. The recently found two islands (imaginary ones!) is an honest attempt by current government to host two city hotels which could do for a resort possibly to provide more jobs and income to economy. Whatever the reasons, its unlikely to go unchallenged by political rivals as the plan is an obvious half thought idea! With many resort islands opening in Huvahdoo atoll and two in Addu, any hotelier who would open camp in these two islands would find it a stretch to compete for customers to their city hotel (in an imaginary island!). The idea that FoaMulah could be helped to develop by two city hotels and a domestic airport does not seem viable as Addu has had facilities for years and yet is lacking in so many ways.

Giving titles to islands and atolls maybe a tame political pastime but the implications of such changes cost the economy as each titled island is in effect a small administration with its requirements such as offices and officers who will manage the newly created narrative. If however the prevailing idea is to help an island by raising its title, what could be feasible for that island needs to be introduced. Everything does not have to be of or related to tourism. Diversifying industries which can help the economy would be better in the long run than to keep all the eggs in the same basket.

cash-strapped employers!

Eriyadhu
Its weird but true. Some resorts juts really can’t afford to pay the staff at the end of the month! Recently a fellow resort worker informed us about his experience in such a resort where he applied for a job. The HR person was all truthful and told the situation without sugar-coating the facts. The resort still has two months back-pay owed to staff and is not sure when they can pay the staff either!

But the question is how a functioning resort which has all paying clients can go so low as to hold on to staff’s wages and yet put a straight face on.. Could the situation be so bad that they would in a few months not even be able to pay for the groceries bill? How long can this farce go on?

The answers to these problems will be given when there is enough political will to confront big bussineses to respect the rule of law. As long as employers can get away with gross violations of labour laws there is little hope things will turn out better for the workers.

Alidhoo Staff fired asking for salary!

SAARC secretary General Dhiyana and JResorts owner Abdulla Jabir

Chairman of Yacht Tours Jabir with his wife Dhiyana SAARC Secretary General

Not to be unfair or one sided but if a survey is made of all the resorts in Maldives and asked which employers are the worst, Jresorts will come to the bottom of the results. There is very little doubt about that. Its a combination of bad politics and corrupt business practices which views the workers as nothing better than paid slaves. This is in very contrast to the excellent service resort workers give to their high paying clients who blissfully are unaware that the workers who pamper them in their expensive holidays sometimes go without pay for months while they still retain the smile.

Our solidarity with the wronged staff of Alidhoo Cinnamon Island who were summarily dismissed for asking for their last month’s salary. This sends a chilling message to honest workers who toil hard in resorts far away from family and friends that employers can still cheat and threat and getaway with everything and nobody seems to take notice!

Here are some background info about Alidhoo the resort, the parent company and the owner of the bussiness.

The owner:
Jresorts is owned and managed by Mr. Abdulla Jabir who is frequently referred to as a self made businessman from Huvadhooo Atoll. However like all creations of the state Mr. Jabir was also a creation of the former administration. Specifically Mr. jabir rose to prominence in tourism industry by association with Yameen the powerful minister who held many ministerial portfolios and half-brother of the Maumoon the last president. It could be safely assumed that almost all of Jabir’s resorts were built, renovated or maintained by finances and materials from deals with the State Trading Organization whose board chairman was also Yameen at the time. So unlike most resort owners who struggled with finance arrangements, Jabir had an important friend at the right place and time. Mr. Jabir’s wife the Diyana the current SAARC secretary general is not associated with his bussiness but its frequently noted in forums and local news that the position for Dhiyana was offered as part of a political deal to keep Mr. Jaabir away from ruling party politics. He is the only prominent politician/businessman in the country to have been in all major political parties, DRP, MDP, Jumuhooee Party, And People’s Alliance (Yaameen’s party) in so a short period of time. Basically he is an opportunist businessman involved in politics for the business interests like everywhere else around the world.

The resorts:
Jresorts currently owns Alidhoo, , KudaRah, Vatavarreha, Funamaudda among many other islands. The parent company of the islands is Yacht Tours Maldives. Past management deals and ownerships include Dhonveli Beach and Spa which has been sold to John Keels Holding Co of Sri lanka and Herethere which was leased from MTDC. The Herethere deal has since been abandoned after a sizable loss to everyone including the MTDC. Jresorts has also been awarded an island in lieu of a failed bid he presented to Vilivaru and Biyadhoo which was a precedent which has since not been replicated.

Tourism Ministry reprieving dodgers

Alidhoo Cinnamon Island JResorts Maldives

Alidhoo (Cinnamon Island)


The decision to reprieve resorts who are dodging payment of  rent and accrued fines is a dangerous precedent created by the tourism ministry. This is actually a very serious  issue as all of the owners of these defaulting resorts are senior members of the ruling MDP party. Tourism industry is the one sector of our economy that works well relatively compared to other sectors so its an alarming situation. The ministry and administration has to make a point of being seen as not playing favourites to the party members.

Tourism ministry may have considered the effect of revoking operation license of these resorts and the ensuing economic factors which might negatively effect the upcoming national elections in their decision. However these figures owed by the resorts in question are not of the magnitude that would have been impossible for resorts to come up with if the resorts are in business. Our resorts are well known for their over pricedness where even a bottle of water is sold for guests to the equivalent of a bottled water case! Also a quarter of million dollars is average monthly value of payroll in a mid sized resort. So its bewildering how the ministry has to bend its uprightness just to appease party benefactors.

Below is a list of resorts and the amounts owed by these resorts as rent and fines.

Alidhoo (Cinnamon Island) (JResorts) $792,042.12
Kuda Rah (JResorts) $759,363.38
Funamaudda (JResorts) $1,241,226.20
Filitheyo Island $2,563,509.01
Medhufushi $3,431,328.44
Kudafunaafaru (Zitahli Resorts) $669,604.72
Hadha (Park Hyatt) $200,833.33
Giraavaru $2,519,276.98
Kihaadhuffaru (Zitahli) $1,471,221.90
Laamu Olhuveli (Six Senses) $4,751,511.11
Nasandhura Palace $265,054.93
Total $18,664,972.12

source:Haveeru

Better living conditions at work site by law

typical resort workers accomodation  would look like this.

typical resort workers accomodation

When employers are remarkably stubborn, everything has to be done by the force of law! Atleast that seems to be how it works in the country. Although we have a booming tourism and an accompanying, construction industry, workers of both industries generally live in medieval conditions. The plight is especially worse for construction industry as the workers are mostly expatriate workers. Worse means ‘small’ things like having to work 7 days a week, no pay for 6 months, a makeshift toilet for one in 50 people and things like that. However its to their credit that Minivan observes that the most frequent complaint of expatriate workers is about unpaid wages, while that for locals is about living conditions. However the ever persistent demand by resort workers about service charge is also about money which is also legally theirs.
Minivan has an excellent article on these lines here… Pls follow to read.

Although our construction workers build world class resorts, their work accommodation is definitely other-worldly..

accomodation for resort construction workers

typical construction workers accomodation

The numbers behind the illegal immigration problem


The problem of illegal workers has soared to new heights as the country is listed on US State Department’s human trafficking watch list for a second year. To tackle the problem the military has been manning the immigration counters and human resources ministry to investigate the root causes of the problem. Prior to this takeover the two offices (immigration and human resources ministry) were not able to solve the problem of which office keeps which monies associated with the immigration and visa fees process. The problem was resolved that neither office gets to keep any monies related to expatriates visas, deposit fees, work permit, return ticket etc. Instead Maldives Inland Revenue Authority takes over the money matters from the two offices.
 
Briefly the various numbers associated with the illegal immigrants are as follows
 

  • 130milion Rf as lost visa fees per year for the country.
  • Greater than 40000 estimated illegal immigrants in the country. The two separate databases kept by the Immigration Department and Human Resources Ministry has a variance of greater than 20000 which is making it difficult to estimate the size of the problem.
  • All legal expatriate worker pays 250rf per month as work visa fees.
  • 1 office serves visas. 1 entry point for immigration.
  • Expatriates are estimated to remit 10m$ per month. The dollar shortage problem is frequently associated with this problem. However the single most drainer of dollars is high government spending.
  • Its also estimated that workers remit 100-800$ per month per worker which is contrary to popular belief that illegal workers work almost for pennies!
  • Recruitments agencies are charged 1500rf per worker as deposit.
  • To counter the unwieldy problem, the government resorted to a new boarder control system which also fell foul to corruption: The monies involved in the new boarder control system are $220m for 20 years for a company called Nexbis: A comparable system that is employed in in Sri Lanka costs 2.2$m to install and to develop!

 

links
http://www.haveeru.com.mv/?page=details&id=113427
http://www.haveeru.com.mv/?page=details&id=113237&category=cTrOpir

 

Finding a job for everyone..


The recent round of middle east turmoil and popular action to remove corrupt regimes from power started with an economic problem. Joblessness. The same kinds of problems are being experienced in more developed countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece. Here in Maldives, we had a culture of government appointing political and civil service jobs as favors for katheeb’s and atholhuverins and their friends and families for a long long time. At that time those who didn’t have the right connections had to make their own way to resorts or somehow manage to scrape a living. Time however has changed with the new popular administration and the changes that are currently being brought simply needs an urgency in creation of jobs for the local people. The current thinking for solving the housing problem is through real-estate business like as done anywhere else, which is almost a new concept for the country. There still is more needed to be done to facilitate this type of business such as changing existing laws on land ownership and laws on mortgage etc. All these measures will soon be taken up and fast-tracked as our version of ‘welfare-state’ is being built, after which the problem of jobs will come again around with a vengeance. This time it will be in the form of home-owners who needs jobs to pay for mortgage!

Fortunately we currently seem to have the capacity to provide jobs for prospective homeowners and taxpayers in the private sector as well, but its by no means in an orderly fashion. Our current job market is in serious chaos and it needs drastic restructuring to be efficient and useful for the local economy.

Broadly here are the industries and the situations thereof which needs to be taken in to consideration.

Tourism industry:
Tourism industry provides most jobs for local economy and this industry can still provide more opportunities by quota adjustment by profession. Currently the situation is that almost any number of foreign workers for any position can be employed for any length of time. Apart from a requirement that 50%ratio of expats to locals workers need to be maintained (even which is not a hard or fast rule!) there is no more encouragement for employing local workers.

Construction industry:
construction industry has vast potential for local economy but is actually the worst in terms of work opportunity for local workers. Its not a problem of lack of talent but rather lack of willingness to tackle corruption in the industry. Construction industry as its currently running is only useful for a handful of big contractors and a few smaller ones who are have the right connections to the big ones. Its almost a no-go area for local artisans and craftsmen because of lack of job security, poor work conditions, and extremely meagre wages designed to discourage local workers. Being businesses everyone tries to get the most profit which equates to finding the cheapest labor which is where the local worker looses out.

Fishing industry:
This is one industry which can be better managed by innovative means. Only depending on one type of product, one type of boats, and one methodology to fish have exhausted the industry and drastic measures needs to be made to revive the industry.

Agriculture industry:
Although we would love to call it an industry, we do not yet have much of agriculture in any comparable industrial scale. Because our islands are small and soil is not very fertile, traditional methods of agriculture as practised in other countries will not work. Things like hydroponics and aquaculture are perfectly suitable for some varieties and needs to be propped up. A most pressing problem for this industry is financing and small business assistance, which also needs to come up somehow somewhere and the sooner the better!

Manufacturing:
Apart from The Static-Company (they export R/O plants) we do not yet seem to have any exportable manufacturing products but there are many encouraging signs. We have successful businesses in bottling plants for water and soft-drinks and a few canning factories for fish cans. What we can successfully introduce to local economy with little effort and financing include, cookies, biscuits, soap, detergent, lotion , perfume etc. These small scale productions can be introduced to aspiring enterprising souls through chambers-of commerce activities and small businesses initiatives.

Financing:
There is great urgency in propping up institutions and mechanisms to help create and sustain other industries by providing capital and finance services. With the upcoming income tax regulations and associated restructuring, its hoped that the government will not be forced to take loans from local banks which is the cause of all financing woes the the country faces.

Minimum wage debate restarted..

Minimum wage is an emotive issue which has broad consensus of acceptance. Its evident from the ongoing dialogue on the issue in various media outlets. There was an attempt to set up a minimum wage for the country to prevent labour exploitation in the past which was duly shot down by the pro-business lobby in the People’s Majls. The current attempt to set the minimum wage comes at a time the balance of power is shifting in favour of the ruling MDP party which hopes to re-energize the local economy by creating more jobs for the locals, releasing and unsustainable peg on dollar to rufiyaa and introducing long overdue tax reforms. Although there are voices of dissent only from the bussiness lobby which includes resorts owners such as Villa group chairman Gasim Ibrahim, Sun Travel Shiyam the minimum wage issues is expected to proceed through People’s Majlis.

Contrary to popular belief, minimum wage when it becomes reality will not be as high as is expected of it. The figure could be based on criteria such as type of work or age of worker etc or one all encompassing one figure such as 2000.00rf etc. It remains to be seen how the the figure is arrived but one criteria the govt. will have on mind is to device it in such away that the current labour exploitation will be halted by this one stroke of legislation. The Minimum wage figure need only to be above the edge the employers are employing expatriates over locals such as 70$ or 100$ per month levels. With these levels of pay, the workers (often expatriates) are enduring back-breaking work in exploitative conditions and suffering for years on end without any regard to rights and benefits of work. If the minimum wage figure is higher than these levels, there is a good chance that construction industry will be more favourable for local employment.

The business lobby will work hard to undermine this measure and yet they do not have convincing arguments against the measure. Vague observations like “we will go bankrupt.. if this happens” only exposes the depth of their understanding of basic issues in running a business. If they do not offer credible objections or alternatives , then they are just a voice and no more. Running a business is no more like a running a slave-trade operation. That was some time back and does not reflect current working condition in resorts or construction industry or anywhere else.

Dropping out of the new 7 wonders scam!


Its wonderful news that the Tourism Ministry wakes up to reality and is dropping out of the fake marketing scam thats called new 7 wonders of whatever it is! Maldives is beautiful as it is. The country has a booming tourism industry and can do very well without fake marketing by fine-tuning the tourism industry; bringing progressive changes, innovating good practices, caring for the industry workers etc etc. The primary purpose of these ‘precious’ marketing schemes is to generate cash for themselves and is bewildering how mature brains can fall for frauds like this. The energy that went to get the country ‘voted’ to poll position clearly shows the enthusiasm that went to believe in the hoax in the first place. Departing guests were made to vote on-line at the airport in support raising of our ranking in the scheme. School students, civil service workers, common folks all voted like mad to give the country a poll position in the new7wonders all the while not knowing the fraudulent nature of the marketing scheme! Now that the hoax is out with the realization that its not the beauty of the country that counts but rather the amount of money we can produce to get the rankings, its time to quit and focus our energies on where it matters. At the industry, the visitors, the islands and the people that makes the it tick! (the workers– like us).

Follow the story in Haveeru
The story in Minivan

The long overdue recognition of Worker’s Day

The government has added May 1 to the list of official public holidays after a cabinet meeting yesterday. Its an improvement from over the years where a day for workers rights was unheard of. Workers rights in the Maldives has largely been championed by the tourism sector workers who have put a lot of effort to raise the issues of workers and has suffered the most. The last workers rally conducted by the TEAM was attended by a few dedicated resort workers and was a novelty kind of approach to voice workers issues. The few attendees held placards displaying various issues faced by the workers. The issues included calls to implement the provisions of labour law as well as demands to review the labour laws! The situation is worse this year as recent patches to labour law crafted by MATI (resort owner’s cartel) has been added in to labour laws, which almost effectually bans workers protests in resorts.

The employers appears still firmly locked in medieval mindset when it comes to playing fair with the workers. What has to dawn on employers is the fact that a happy, loyal, motivated workforce will be more productive and more beneficial for the business they are employed in. It doesn’t make anybody a genius to know that and to apply these. It would also be universally acknowledged that employers in this day and time couldn’t be that daft not to know such a basic truth. However it should be beneficial to be reminded that we are dealing with the same employers who raised fears that resorts would have to hire double the amount of staff they were currently employing just to comply with the 8 hour work rule when the labour law was enacted. Its a sign of how low the employer class been and how much catching up there is.

A whole island for 1500 dollars!

kudafinolhu island

The island of Kudafinolhu is north of fun island is in the press with the Villa Group claiming the tourism ministry’s revision of the rent for the island is against the original agreement signed with the ministry. The island was leased to the Villa group at a paltry 1500 dollars as a picnic island. The revised rent is based on the size of the island and amounts to 51,784 dollars annually.
The case highlights the corruption and self-interest at play in the tourism ministry over the years and its an encouragement that the tourism ministry is at-last seen to be doing something about these issues.
Although a picnic island by itself does not generate income like a ‘resort’, resorts sell excursions to guests which is a lot of money on a yearly basis. For the purpose of rent for the k.kudafinolhu, 1500 dollars is only symbolic. This goes in the same line where Villa group was awarded a plot of land in Male’ for filling station for only 6rf per sq-ft. If we consider another similar island Kuda Bandos, which is a primarily local picnic island, the rent for the island is 1,130,333 dollars! so the kinds of money expected from picnic island is not paltry at all when dealt farily. There are more islands and more stories like this which needs to come out to light and accountability.

Related story: Kandholhu Island

Dollar exchange rate revised

The long expected devaluation of local currency Rufiya has happened with an official range of 10.28rf to 15.42rf per 1$ announced yesterday. The immediate implications of this exchange hike would be a jump in consumer goods prices so one Rufiya would have less buying power than it had one day ago. This measure was enacted by president Anni with consultations of financial experts to curb a thriving black market for dollars at higher than official figures for exchange rate. The official storyline is that although there will be a lift in consumer goods prices in the short term, the crisis will pass and that dollar to Rufiya rate will fluctuate on a daily basis and everyone will live happily ever after. However with the current political realities its difficult to believe this measure will go unchallenged by the opposition.

The implications of this dollar exchange rate will be negatively felt by resort workers in resorts where the staff are paid their salaries in Rufiyas. Although there is no real reason for resorts to pay salaries in Rufiyas, several resort do exactly that. This is despite the fact that all the revenues generated in the resorts are foreign currency.

The construction industry will also be affected by this exchange rate measures, which hopefully will consider offering more work opportunities for local workers. The current model for construction industry is to employ illegal immigrant workers at near extortion rates for back breaking work and to employ only illegal immigrant workers (because they will be unlikely to pursue their rights in official channels) to do the job all the while saying local talent is unavailable. Nothing can be further from truth. Locals are as or more willing to work for a reasonable pay which the ‘construction industry’ does not seem inclined to give.

Ultimately, the solution to dollar shortage in the country is to adopt more financial reform measures which will be fought with on every step of the way by our opposition political parties which has only mission in office; to oppose the government weather its right or wrong!

Job stats revealed by ‘employment ministry’

employment minister

Armed with partial statistics on jobs in the Maldives, the employment minister it appears have rightly waded in ‘hot water’ territory deriding fellow countrymen for not seeking work. According to the ministry’s latest job survey there appears to be 1639 vacant jobs in various businesses at the moment (in Male’ area) while only 300 applicants seemed to have applied for jobs via their obscure job matching system, hosted in the ministry’s site. The survey seems to indicate that of the total 22642 workers currently working in 24094 businesses, only 12432 workers are local. The minister appears to observe that lack of qualification might be the prime reason why workers remain unemployed despite many vacant positions.
Responding to the minister’s argument in a Haveeru thread, most readers of  observes that the youth minister Hassan Latheef is not fully aware of the scope and magnitude of the problem. While its common knowledge that the ‘best’ jobs will be acquired by the most qualified workers, there are so many other problems which checks the workers from applying for jobs. The survey conducted by the ministry does not seem to include anything else except vacant jobs in business properties. It could well include elements to determine the problems why seemingly large numbers of eligible workers refrain from entering the market. In short the many problems why people do not enthusiastically take up vacant jobs could be:

  • low paid jobs: this is a problem that have not kept up pace with the inflation of the economy and unrealistic expectations of employers.
  • wage benefits: to a large extent if local and expatriate workers are compared in similar positions in Male’, the local will be at a disadvantage by benefits such as housing and food allowances which mostly does not apply for locals. This is despite the fact that the a large number of locals who work in Male’ are from local islands and pay for their own accommodation in Male’ as well.
  • inconsistent job specs and unrealistically high qualifications: this defies explanation. Some employers simply ask for bachelors degree qualification even for such mundane jobs as store keepers! In return they are willing to pay only the lowest wages in the market.

Despite the half hearted surveys, its a good sign that the ministry is at least concerned about these issues and hopefully better mechanisms to get people to work will be implemented in the future. This measure is on the heals of another important problem the government is seemingly at work on which is the dollar shortage problem. According to official figures there is a 2m$ outflow of dollars from Male’ as remittances by expatriate workers which is one of the many factors aiding pressure on the pegged dollar exchange rate.

Strike at Hilton Rangali and Baros robbery

Two important and interesting stories in the tourism sector at the moment. The first is about the strike at Rangali (which has ended now) which is one of the better resorts in the country and another is an attempted robbery at Baros which left one attacker dead.. the investigation continues. Links to both stories are here….

first story
at Haveeru
at Minivan
second story
at Minivan
at Haveeru

On the first issue, the protesting staff alleges discrimination of pay which is very common practice in resorts and elsewhere. Generally if two workers are employed in the same position and one being an expatriate and another local, the chances are that the local will get less. Its quite common and has been an issue protested over many times in different resorts and other businesses in the past as well. Another issue the protesters claim is that the employer holding back service charge which the resort denies. Although the strike is called off now we understand that the resort agreed to raise the service charge to levels in other similar level resorts which means agreement that service charge has been manipulated.
Under the labour law employers are required to pay all but 1% of service charges taken from guests to staff and yet most resorts withhold part of this income. But for a Hilton branded resort to go to this low to profiteer at the expense legitimate incomes of the staff is unbelievable!

On the issue of the attempted robbery at Baros , one attacker is known to have died and its not clear the circumstance of the death. However it is known that there are head injuries and that the attacker was pulled out from lagoon while trying to make escape after a scuffle with the staff. Its the second time this year that the robbers have attacked resorts and this time they were just not lucky enough. Resorts have to come up with better policies to protect the island and be more vigilant as the robbers are getting more daring and dangerous with each attack. Ideally the solution to these problems could be through policing and judicial system. However with the government and opposition parties firmly locked at horns, any useful measures to overhaul the judicial, and penitentiary system could not be expected. Its also understood that most of the violent and dangerous crimes that happen in the country are committed by hardened criminals who are released to the community in the midst of their prison term for various flimsy reasons.

Congrats to all fellow resort workers who became councillors


Our heartfelt congratulations to many fellow resort workers from various resorts, who joined the local council elections and won the seats. Politics and resort life are indeed not the same thing but for everything there has to be a start! We hope you will do a tremendous job and you will be remembered as the pioneers of councilmen in the country.

Our country needs new ideas and new institutions and perhaps a clean break from the old ways. Local council as we have in the country is not the most effective solution to our problems with a parallel line-up of ‘katheebs’ the opposition will want to keep in office, but advocating against a benefit to an island community is political suicide. So it will be a top-heavy federal type of government with local administration coming from party offices in Male’, that controls the councils which is definitely a negative development.

However we hope against hope that local councils do actually work and becomes useful to the people and the country.

Runaway processes

We have quite a number of alarming runaway process in the country . Mostly this is about politicians finding themselves in a situation like where the little boy was locked in the sweetshop. The only difference here is that our politicians are not little boys, nor are they locked in a sweet shop. We are talking about public accountability, honesty, integrity, qualities which they talk about so much but the reality does not match.

  1. The most alarming of such a processes is the People’s Majlis setting the salaries of everyone. It’s quite accepted that most of our People’s Majlis are not capable of rational discourse on technical matters such as fiddling with pay structures, but they are doing it anyhow either for greed or to make life tough for the ruling party.
  2. There is a trend in the government to sell off (not exactly but long term lease) islands across the country for developing tourism etc. as a means of fund-raising for their pet projects. Some of these projects are for like raising money for building flats for fellow countrymen or as an escape route to appease the islanders from the previous government’s promises. Such situations include airports at Thaa and Foa Mulaku atoll which perhaps were not the brightest ideas of the former administration, but anyhow they were promised to the people and the new politician’s are doing all they can to appear that they actually worked to fulfil the dreams of the people. Dream or no dream, the intention has to be honest; that if something or some project is unworthy or unrealistic it shall be explained to the people.
  3. Another and equally damaging process is the Majlis members passing and enacting laws which will not benefit the majority of the people of this country. One prime example of this fact was in the passing of the copy rights bill which stipulates unrealistically high punishments for software piracy etc. The point here is not the legitimacy but the realization of the situation of the country. This is a country like many in the world, where almost every computer runs Microsoft and the OS is likely to be a pirated copy of Windows. The funniest part is that bill was pushed through Majlis because of perceived threats to ‘Mollywood’ the equivalent of Holywood in US or Bollywood in India, which creates a bunch of ‘films’ every year which somehow all seems to have been created, directed, watched and played by the same people…

There are indeed are many such runaway processes in the country that needs to be checked. If we really cared about our country, we have to be more honest and upfront about our good intentions.

The wov moment


All industries and endeavours starts modestly, runs a gradually till it meets a defining moment in its history (the ‘wov’ moment) and from there on, the industry gets transformed. It’s like growing up after long and seemingly inexhaustibly years of youth. In a small and developing (really?) country like Maldives, its still possible to see these defining moments in history at various walks of life.

One example of such a defining moment in the modern history of Maldives is the dhoni album of Zero Degree. Prior to which almost all songs and music were copycats from India or elsewhere. The lyrics were mostly about love, nationalism and good values. Dhoni album was a big change from its contemporaries at the time. The music was original, the lyrics was about historically themed dhivehi country gnere or something similar. From that moment onward our little music industry just transformed. Its now like artisitic suicide to sing or even hum a hindhi tune or to put dhivehi lyrics to a hindhi song.

Another example of a defining moment can be the struggle for multi party democracy in the country. Although a lot has happened, and every party or politician will want to claim a share of the history, the fact is that a lot of people did a lot to dismantle the one party state we had and looking back over the years, its difficult to pin-point the the equivalent day in our politics when the Berlin Wall came down. It could have been the secret signing up of members to MDP, or it could have been the first date when Sandhaanu, Hukuru or even Sangu was printed. It could even have been the day when Dr. Hassan Saeed chanced upon the then constitution of Maldives and discovered  that multi-parties were actually allowed under the constitution. Whatever the occasion or the many occasions, Maldives was a very different country from what it was then and its unlikely that there will be any going back to the past.

The same has not yet happened to other more areas of the country which hopefully will not be the case for a long time. For example, our media although it has come a long way from singing praise of the dear leader all the time is still in the clutches of both sides of political process. The opposition is doing all it can to legitimize its hold on the media through the parliament and the ruling party is doing all it can to hold it in their camp. Media ideally shall be too powerful for parties and governments to meddle with, it shall also be independent, able to doom and condemn politician’s career  where it crosses lines with media. Control of the media shall not be vested in any political party and it shall be just and balanced and be useful to the people. Those who work in the media shall also receive more training and be able to question hard-talk like to people who claim to bring Utopia to the country.

The moon has not been visited by humans for a long time now since the early heyday of space explorations. They found out its a dusty inhospitable place so they stopped sending astronauts there. Nor has much happened in the tourism industry of Maldives  since the first batch of Italian tourists came back in the seventies looking for fun. Apart from a few international brand names setting up camp in a few resorts, nothing has happened. There is no minimum wage for the worker, there is complete opacity as to his or her benefits or job security in the job as was the case in the past. The only glimmer of hope for the worker which materialized in the form of a worker’s rights bill at the parliament was diluted so much to the whims and wishes of the resort owners in the Majlis that it would be better to draft the same thing anew (which the HR ministry seems to be doing).